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Dave Brunt

Dave Brunt: Purpose, Process, People in Sales

By Dave Brunt, - Last updated: Thursday, December 20, 2012 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

My initial reaction, when first reading this question is to quote the famous phrase from the Training Within Industry materials – “If the learner hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught.” However this is a good question and one that deserves some discussion. As someone who has spent 14 years helping create examples of lean in car dealerships I have some hypotheses and some experience of the challenges of implementing lean in sales. Obviously understanding the root cause of failure is situational but here are my general observations.

1. Purpose is not always clearly understood. Different customers are at different stages in their buying journey. One-way to look at this is that there is both a pre and post sale process and value (customer purpose) is different for each stage. At pre-sale customer purpose is about the right information, at the right time, with least inconvenience (and time) with the best personal service, to enable me to make the most appropriate decision on the right product at the right price for me. For pre-sale activity provider purpose is about getting as many enquirers as possible to buy, in such a way that meets customer purpose and makes them willing to recommend to others. For the post sale process customer purpose is about getting the right product, in the right condition, at the right time with good service and convenience (lean folks know about this bit) and provider purpose is about meeting customer purpose with the minimum waste (overproduction, delay, inventory, rework, etc.) in such a way that customers recommend to others.

Some facts about car buying customers that highlight that there is both a pre and post sale process are that:
–85% have decided to buy a car before visiting a dealer
–78% of those that go out and look at a car, buy one
–89% of them want to drive the car before they buy it
–68% said they got a lousy presentation/demo – if at all
–65% said salesperson didn’t qualify their wants & needs, or establish some rapport before trying to sell them a car
–46% bought on the spot if they got a good presentation/demo!
–At any given dealer, only 20% of enquirers buy a car!

However few sales teams measure their pre-sale activity – few (actually none that I’ve ever started to work with know how many potential customers visit, phone, email or write to them on a given day!) Highlight a sales department’s performance to these purposes and you start to stand a chance.

2. When implementing lean we always start with the work. We view all work as a process linked to purpose. However many sales professionals don’t view what they do as a process and (if they do) they see the process as a craft – they believe it’s different every time and can’t be described in a detailed linear fashion. For the lean folks, that’s initially difficult to argue against and therefore means that the tools and techniques that we readily apply in many environments need a degree of translation before they can be applied. Start talking to a salesman about standardized work and you will immediately see the shutters come down – don’t you realize that every customer is different I hear them say! Whilst we can’t easily see the work of a salesman when they sell a car the key lies in making visible the performance of the process. How many enquiries do you have, how many of those do you qualify, then demonstrate the product to, present a deal to and ultimately close? Where are the leaks in this sequence? How does each sales person perform – some will be good at qualifying and not so good at closing others good at closing but not so good at demonstrating etc. These leaks are the wastes in the process. If you could reduce the leaks what would the new performance look like? This potential performance is the new target condition. If the performance of the process can be made visible we can then have meaningful discussions on the methods used.

3. Of course there is also a people element. Sales folk have often not been in an environment where the systematic highlighting and closing of gaps (problems) has been carried out. There’s always an excuse – the product isn’t as good as the competition, the guy down the road is undercutting us, their trade in is not desirable for us to stack up an attractive deal, I can just do another deal to get out of the situation I’m in etc etc. Unlearning their current routines and behaviours and learning continuous improvement is a key piece. This is not currently rewarded or encouraged in many cases. The measures and rewards are often transactional – sell more units and get more money as an individual, not for the benefit of the company as a whole or for the long-term interest of the organisation. Mura and muri are rarely on the radar of an individual sales person. Add to this the issue that the best sales person (or the street fighter – as one of my dealers calls his best sales people) becomes the sales manager then changing the behaviours becomes further challenged.

Difficulties and challenges aside, there are obvious business benefits to applying lean in sales. What’s needed is to articulate the link between purpose, process and people so that we can redefine the way the work gets done. Articulating this (not in the language that the lean folks understand) in a way that helps organizations meets both customer and business purpose is the key. Hence my initial reaction “If the learner hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught.”

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